Brain Drain By Brian Simpson
I tend to have a bit of a runny nose most of the time, probably due to some allergy (perhaps living in the pollution of Melbourne). My wife Rachel found this article and sent it to me, saying that it explains why I have trouble remembering things, because like this poor woman, my brain juices must be leaking out!
Well, I do not want to descend to Uncle Len levels of degeneracy, but her explanation of my behaviour cannot be right. I would say that any juice had in my brain, let alone my body, had long ago drained away. On a slightly more sensible note about anatomy, scientists have discovered a new organ of the human body, and it is not the brain:
“They discovered a new organ, which they had missed using standard ways of examining the body’s complex internal system. The new organ is called the interstitium. It is located under the skin’s top layer as well as in tissue layers around the gut, lungs, blood vessels, muscles, urinary systems, veins, and arteries. In other words, the interstitium is found all over the body and consists of a network of interconnected compartments filled with fluid and supported by a meshwork of collagen and elastin proteins. Scientists used to think this new organ was just a group of dense, connective tissues. But they’re so much more than that. The interstitium is composed of shock absorbers that prevent tissues from tearing, as organs, muscles and blood vessels go about their work.
The scientists’ discovery that this layer is a highway of moving fluid could explain why cancer that invades the interstitum easily spreads throughout the body. The organ, which drains into the lymphatic system, contains lymph, the fluid which helps immune cells create inflammation. Scientists have long known that more than half of our body fluids are found in the cells, and about a seventh live in the heart, blood vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels. The remaining fluid is “interstitial,” and the new study’s authors say their research is the first to identify it as an organ, one of the largest found in the body. They explain that previous research failed to identify the interstitium because medical practitioners examined fixed tissues. Scientists examining the tissues can’t study the fluids surrounding them because they are drained away in the process.”
As usual, the discovery is expected to help in combating cancer. That seems to be the standard thing when almost any biological discoveries are made: “Yes, it suggests a new way of tackling cancer.” We will see, but I won’t hold my interstitium waiting.